Captions & dictate: YouTube, Zoom & Amazon

New tools for live Chrome transcripts & why I love the Fire TV remote

Maybe you’re on hold, waiting to talk to tech support, but in the middle of watching a video, and it’s hard to play your soundtrack and listen to the obnoxious hold music at the same time.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could continue following the video, by reading the words, instead of listening?

Or perhaps you’re playing a podcast on your computer, in the office, at the library (we’ll be there again one day!) and you forgot your headphones.

Now you can turn off the audio and read the transcript, with a new free live closed caption service from Google. It operates in the Google Chrome web browser and adds real-time transcripts when playing audio on the Web.

The good news: it works, and really well. I tested it on YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Stitcher, the podcast service and the New York Times website and it was nearly flawless.

The bad news: this is yet another new tool introduced by Google to keep you in the system, so it can better track your every move. The websites you visit, the purchases you make, the online videos you chose to watch, the podcasts you listen to.

On paper, of course, what Google says is that Live Captions is primarily aimed at people who are either hard of hearing or have suffered from hearing loss, so this is a great feature for the hearing aid and beyond set. Whether anyone else will care is debatable.

It was first introduced on Google Pixel phones. I fell in love with the feature on the phone, where frankly, it’s more useful. I use it to transcribe my recorded interviews. For someone like me, that’s a godsend.

Chrome is the most used web browser, mostly due to the popularity of Google search, but again, the browser is one of Google’s chief tools for tracking what you read, watch and shop for. That’s how Google gets much of its information to bombard you with personalized ads.

Tip: you can limit Google’s tracking by using the Incognito feature of the browser. Apple’s Safari and Firefox are less grabby. But they don’t offer live transcriptions.

The one place so many of us would love to have transcripts is on Zoom meetings, but Zoom has made that really hard. You can download an accessory app, Otter.ai, but connecting it to Zoom is very wonky. Zoom itself says it will offer dedicated closed caption services in the fall.

Live transcripts are one of the best features of Google Meet, Google’s Zoom alternative, but they have one fatal flaw. Yes, they work really easily, but no, you can’t save the transcript after the meeting has ended. Explain that one to me please? It makes no sense.

In the browser, to watch YouTube and other online video, I love the idea of web transcripts, even though, frankly, I doubt I’ll use them very often. Still, it’s nice to know they’re there.

How to add Live Captions to your browser:

This is really simple. Go to the three dots at the right top of the Chrome browser, click Settings, then Advanced, and Accessibility. Then turn on Live Captions and you’re good to go.

Try it out and please let me know what you think.

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Amazon’s Voice remote

Speaking of voice, enough good hasn’t been said about Amazon’s Fire TV remote.

As anyone who watches streaming TV knows, searching for a movie, TV show or channel is laborious, one letter at a time. Voice search is so much better.

I love how you can click on the microphone tab on the Fire TV remote, announce your selection, and watch the results pop up on the TV screen. “Netflix.” “George Clooney movies.” “Wonder Woman 1984.” “Virgin River.”

Just hold the mic down and say the names of channels, shows, movies, talent, and odds are you’ll see the results pop right up on your TV screen.

This isn’t using Alexa to find something, although that’s certainly possible by pairing your Fire TV with an Echo speaker or using the Fire TV Cube, which allows for hands-free search (i.e., you don’t have to hold the microphone button down on the remote.) It’s just a way more efficient way of navigating.

And yes Apple will let you do searches on Apple TV, via Siri, which in my experience works hit and miss. Roku has built-in voice search on it, but you’ll need to have the latest software and hardware.

I’ve tried them all, and Amazon’s remote wins it for me in terms of ease of use, buttons in all the right places and cost. The screen menu interface of Fire TV is another story—way confusing with too many tiles and ads that can’t be personalized, but when it comes to navigation via voice, Amazon gets my kudos.

And in case you’re wondering, yes indeed, Amazon tracks your TV viewing too, and responds with ads on Amazon.com and suggestions. You can play with the settings and request that the info not be shared with TV companies, but either way, Amazon will still know all about your viewing habits. Welcome to the world of streaming.

The only way to get around this is to go back to an antenna and watch TV the old-fashioned way.

Sting and TV theme songs

Speaking of TV, I’m a huge fan of Sting and TV theme songs, which, as savvy readers know, are the vehicle I took advantage of to originally learn to play the guitar. So thanks Rena for passing on this great clip of Sting doing his take on the theme to Jeopardy!, with new lyrics too.

Really nice playing Gordon, great wink and such a beautiful Hummingbird!

And here’s one of my favorites: The Best to You Each Morning!

Hey kids. Keeping with the TV and streaming theme, could you do me a favor and please tune to my Photowalks TV series on the Tubi free streaming app this weekend?

Join me and my cameras as we explore Portugal, Hawaii, the Oregon Coast, Los Angeles, Catalina and Balboa Islands and Morro Bay and Cayucos.

For those of you who’ve watched, what’s your favorite so far? And where should I go next?

Thanks as always for watching, reading and listening. If you enjoyed today’s newsletter, let me know, and tell all your friends to subscribe!

Have a great weekend!

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